Published in the August 1, 2018 edition


LYNNFIELD — Battle lines were drawn during a discussion on the proposed Bali Hai apartment building at the Planning Board’s meeting on July 25.

Developers Matthew and David Palumbo have proposed constructing a 14,000 sq. ft., 32-unit luxury apartment building, the Residences at Suntaug Lake, at the 160 Moulton Dr. property. The proposed apartment building would consist of 24 two-bedroom apartments and eight one-bedroom apartments. There would be 67 parking spaces at the property.

“These are high-end units,” said Atty. Ted Regnante. “There will be no subsidized housing.”

The Planning Board discussed the proposed project in order to make a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which will be discussing the project at its next meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 7, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Al Merritt Center. However, the Planning Board decided to hold off on making a recommendation until a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 6, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Joe Maney Meeting Room in Town Hall.

Regnante gave an overview of the project. He said the development team will be asking the ZBA to approve a special permit in order to change the nonconforming use from a restaurant to an apartment building. He also said the ZBA will be asked to approve the project’s site plan.

“The proposal is to convert a present 273-seat nonconforming restaurant to a 32-unit nonconforming apartment building,” said Regnante. “It’s nonconforming because we are in a Residence A District, which limits it to single-family housing. Under state law and our Zoning Bylaw, the present nonconforming use may be changed to another nonconforming use provided that the new use is not substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood than the existing use.”

Regnante said “no variances” are being requested from the ZBA. He noted the Bali Hai was originally built in the 1950’s, which replaced the Suntaug Inn. He said the town’s Zoning Bylaw was approved in 1929.

“The use of a restaurant and inn predate the change in zoning and the property has been used for commercial purposes continually during that period and up until the present time,” said Regnante.

Regnante argued the apartment building would be less detrimental to the neighborhood because a residential property would replace a commercial property.

“It would more carefully match the residential character of the neighborhood,” said Regnante. “It will have less of a traffic impact. It will reduce disturbances at the property. There have been frequent requests for police intervention at the property, including a recent marijuana bust. The new use will decrease disturbances at the property.”

Regnante said the town requested that the development team provide 16 additional parking spaces for Newhall Park in order to alleviate the parking crunch on Oak Street during Little League games in the spring and summer.

Hayes Engineering Civil Engineer Eric Lane said a traffic study was conducted on July 11. He claimed the apartment building would result in a minor traffic increase during the morning and there will be less traffic at night.

“If we revitalize the restaurant, the numbers going to the restaurant would increase,” said Lane. “Converting the use of the Bali Hai Restaurant to a 32-unit apartment building would result in no detrimental traffic impacts.”

Architect Stephen Sousa said the building will have a “Neo-Victorian” design, and will include quite a bit of green space.

Landscape architect James Emmanuel said trees will remain at the rear of the property and trees will be planted along Oak Street in order to provide a buffer to abutters.

Project criticized again

Similar to the neighborhood meeting held in late June, most of the residents who attended the Planning Board’s July 25 meeting said they oppose the apartment building project. Three residents in attendance said they were in favor of it.

Mohammad Saeed, 8 Oak St., reiterated his support for the project.

“I have lived on Oak Street for 40 years and what has been presented sounds like music to me,” said Saeed. “This will give a lift to the whole area. Hopefully this project will go through.”

Karl Norgoal, 6 Oak St., agreed.

“I am in full support of this project,” said Norgoal. “Anything would be an improvement over what is there now. I don’t think there is going to be a problem with parking. When there are games going on at Newhall Park, there is parking everywhere.”

While the two Oak Street residents in attendance said they support the project, a number of residents came out against it.

David Trefry, 5 Locksley Rd., said he opposes the project because it will create more traffic and parking problems.

“This isn’t Boston, this is a suburb,” said Trefry. “I would say you are going to have a parking problem, and the overflow is going to end up at the park. The town owns the park and parking could have a detrimental effect on the park, and you are denying a town vote on it. That is not right. I don’t see how the traffic is not going to impact Moulton Drive.”

Anthony Auterio, 106 Moulton Dr., said he opposes the project because he argued it would have a negative impact on property values.

“You are going to have a lot of crime in the area because renters do not take care of their property,” said Auterio. “They could care less. The people who come here won’t have respect for the neighbors.”

Atty. Patrick Curley, 26 Locksley Rd., gave a lengthy presentation in opposition to the apartment building proposal. He said Regnante’s “creative interpretation of the law puts the cart before the horse.” He cited the Rockwood vs. Snow Inn Corporation case from the early 1990s, in which the State Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Harwich Zoning Board of Appeals’ approval of a special permit that allowed changes and extensions to structures that preexisted the Harwich Zoning Bylaw did not fully conform to setback requirements established by that town’s bylaw.

“The 32-unit apartment building is a prohibited use in the Residence A Zoning District, which comprises this site,” Curley argued. “This is not a mild extension of a preexisting use. This is a wholesale change of use.”

In the wake of the Palumbo brothers previously stating that they would put in a restaurant at the Bali Hai property if the ZBA rejects the apartment building proposal, Curley stated major restaurants “are going to find legal challenges with the townspeople.” Curley said he would be “delighted if the Bali Hai were to sell,” but said the developers should build single-family homes at the property.

“That is the draw of Lynnfield,” said Curley. “We have neighboring towns that have given up on their zoning, and every new project is an apartment building. If this town sets the standard with this site that apartment buildings are welcome, it’s open season on any lots in Lynnfield. We could become an apartment town.”

Atty. Jesse Schomer, who works with Regnante, said the Rockwood case pertained to a commercial property that needed variances. He said the apartment building project does not need any variances.

“We conform to the setback and the height of the building,” added Regnante. “We are not requesting any variances.”

Housing Authority Chairman Joe Markey, 22 Pine St., noted the Palumbo brothers agreed to set aside a unit for a veteran.

“I heard a lot of concerns tonight, but our board supports this project,” said Markey. “It’s a blight area for the community. We do think the change in use would be substantially beneficial to the community. Speaking as a resident, I think we need to look at the beneficial aspects of this project as opposed to the developer putting in a restaurant.”

Planning Board delays vote

After residents weighed in on the proposal, the Planning Board discussed the project.

Planning Board member John Gioioso said he wanted Town Counsel Tom Mullen to weigh in on the apartment building project before the board votes on it. He expressed concerns that the project would have a negative impact on the town’s schools. He said questions about the building’s septic system and traffic issues “need further study.”

“This is a big change for the town and it will set a precedent for Lynnfield,” said Gioioso. “The town should have an opportunity to vote on this.”

In response to a question from Gioioso, School Committee Chairman Jamie Hayman said he shares the Planning Board member’s concerns.

“There is an ongoing concern that any additional developments will have an impact on the schools,” said Hayman.

Regnante said Mark Fougere of Fougere Planning and Development projects between “seven and nine” children will reside in the apartment building. Hayman believes the estimate is “low.”

Planning Board members Michael Sheehan and Charlie Wills both requested that a meeting be held before the ZBA meeting.

“A separate meeting will provide us with additional information,” said Sheehan.

Planning Board Chairman Brian Charville expressed his support for Gioioso, Sheehan and Wills’ request.